From Nigeria to South Africa, Ivory Coast to Tunisia, and beyond, we’re shining a spotlight on the top African filmmakers who are breaking barriers and setting new standards in the world of cinema. They are the visionaries whose storytelling prowess has earned them international acclaim, and whose works you love.
Kunle Afolayan (Nigeria)
Kunle Afolayan, a second-generation Nigerian filmmaker, son of Adeyemi Afolayan, carved a niche for himself in the global film industry. Initially trained as a Business Administrator with a career in banking, his first foray into filmmaking was his leading role in Tunde Kelani’s award-winning “Saworoide.” This experience ignited him to enroll at the New York Film Academy in 2005. Over the past 16 years, Afolayan has produced successful films like “Irapada,” “The Figurine,” “Phone Swap,” and “October 1,” among others, setting box office records and gaining international attention. He partnered with Netflix to produce hits like “Citation,” “Swallow,” and “Anikulapo,” with the latter currently making waves globally. Afolayan’s work has been showcased at international film festivals, solidifying his reputation as a force to be reckoned with in both the African and global film industries
Gavin Hood (South Africa)
Gavin is a South African filmmaker with a law degree and a postgraduate degree in screenwriting and directing from a California film school. His directorial debut began with educational dramas for South Africa’s Department of Health before making his first commercial short film, “The Storekeeper,” in 1998. Hood gained international acclaim with his 2005 film “Tsotsi,” which won the OSCAR for Best Foreign Language Film. He has since transitioned to Hollywood, directing films like “Rendition” and “X-Men Origins: Wolverine.” His work has earned him various accolades, including a spot on Variety magazine’s “Ten Directors to Watch” list
Philippe Lacôte (Ivory Coast)
Born in 1969, Philippe is an Ivorian filmmaker who began his career as a radio reporter in Abidjan. Transitioning into film, he initially focused on short films, exploring the social and political landscape of his country, notably with “Chronicles of War in the Ivory Coast” in 2008. Amidst the political crisis in 2002, Lacôte founded Wassakara Productions along with a collective of artists to offer alternative narratives to mainstream media. His feature film debut, “Run,” premiered at Cannes’ Un Certain Regard in 2014. His most recent work, “La nuit des rois” (Night of the Kings), delves into the complexities of life in West Africa’s largest prison and was Côte d’Ivoire’s entry for the 2021 Academy Awards. His films include “Somnambule,” “Affaire Libinski,” and “Cairo Hours.”
Kaouther Ben Hania (Tunisia)
Kaouther Ben Hania is a Paris-based Tunisian film director and scriptwriter. Born in Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia, she honed her filmmaking skills at the Tunisian Ecole des Arts et du Cinéma (EDAC) before further studies at La Fémis and the Sorbonne in Paris. Ben Hania has an impressive filmography that includes short films like “Me, My Sister and the Thing” (2006) and “Wooden Hand” (2013), as well as documentaries like “Imams Go to School,” which premiered at IDFA 2010. Her first feature film, “Challat of Tunis,” was released in 2013, followed by her critically acclaimed “Beauty and the Dogs” in 2017, which was Tunisia’s entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 91st Academy Awards. In a historic moment for Tunisian cinema, her 2020 film “The Man Who Sold His Skin” was nominated for Best International Feature Film at the 93rd Academy Awards. Her recent work “Four Daughters” has competed for the Palme d’Or at the 76th Cannes Film Festival,
A versatile producer and director with a rich background that spans multiple platforms including Television, Radio, Theatre, Advertising, and Film. An alumnus of the prestigious London Film School, Steve holds a Diploma in TV Production from NTA Television College in Jos and a BA in Theatre Arts from the University of Jos. He gained international recognition with his film “Namibia – The Struggle For Liberation,” starring Danny Glover and Carl Lumbly, which premiered at the 2006 Pan African Film Festival in L.A and won multiple awards. His other notable works include “93Days,” a feature film about the Ebola outbreak in Nigeria that premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), and “Living In Bondage: Breaking Free,” a sequel to the industry-defining film “Living In Bondage,” which also garnered several awards
Judy Kibinge (Kenya)
Kibinge is a multifaceted Kenyan filmmaker, writer, and producer known for tackling social issues and taboos in works like “Something Necessary.” She started her career in advertising at McCann Erickson Kenya, becoming its first black creative director before leaving to pursue filmmaking. A highly awarded director, Judy won both the Africa Movie Academy Awards and the Zanzibar Film Festival. She founded DocuBox, a documentary film fund backed by the Ford Foundation, to nurture African filmmaking talent and provide production support. Additionally, she was selected as an Oscar judge in 2017 by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Her films are Dangerous Affair, The Aftermath, Project Daddy,Killer Necklace.
Akosua Adoma Owusu (Ghana)
Akosua Adoma Owusu is a Ghanaian-American filmmaker, producer, and educator known for her experimental films that explore the complexities of identity, particularly the “triple consciousness” experienced by African immigrants in the U.S. Her work has been showcased globally, including at the New York and Toronto International Film Festivals, and has received critical acclaim from publications like ARTFORUM and Film Comment. Owusu’s film “KWAKU ANANSE” won the 2013 Africa Movie Academy Award and her work is held in prestigious collections like the Whitney Museum and Centre Pompidou. She has garnered numerous fellowships, including the Guggenheim Memorial Foundation and Creative Capital Fellowships.
Wanuri Kahiu, born June 21, 1980, is a Kenyan film director, producer, and author celebrated as one of Africa’s most promising talents in contemporary cinema. She has garnered numerous awards, including Best Director, Best Screenplay, and Best Picture at the Africa Movie Academy Awards in 2009 for her feature film “From a Whisper.” Kahiu is also the co-founder of AFROBUBBLEGUM, a media collective aimed at promoting African art for its intrinsic value. Her filmography includes impactful works such as “The Spark That Unites” (2006), “Ras Star” (2006), “From a Whisper” (2008), “Pumzi” (2009), “For Our Land” (2009), “State House” (2014, 4 episodes), “Who Am I?” (2018), “Rafiki” (2018), and her latest project “Look Both Ways” (2022)
Femi Odugbemi (Nigeria)
Femi Odugbemi is a multifaceted filmmaker and TV producer based in Nigeria. He’s a voting member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and four-time Head Judge for the Africa Magic Viewer’s Choice Awards (AMVCA). His influence extends to international platforms, having been a juror for the Emmy Awards, the Uganda Film Festival, and the Johannesburg International Film Festival. As the Executive Producer/CEO of Zuri24 Media Lagos, Femi has produced some of Africa’s most popular TV series, including Nigeria’s longest-running soap opera ‘TINSEL,’ the telenovela ‘BATTLEGROUND,’ and the crime series ‘BRETHREN.’ His latest project is a short series titled ‘MOVEMENT: JAPA,’ and he is currently working on adapting the prison memoirs of a Nobel laureate in literature for the screen
Amr Salama (Egypt)
Amr Salama, born in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in 1982, is an Egyptian film director, blogger, screenwriter, and author. He began his career directing short films and commercials before transitioning to feature-length movies. His debut feature, “Zay El Naharda,” was released in 2008. Salama gained international attention with his AIDS-themed film “Asmaa,” which won multiple awards. He faced censorship issues in Egypt, particularly with his film “Excuse My French,” which was initially rejected for allegedly promoting sectarianism. The film was later approved and released, followed by another film in 2014, “Made in Egypt.” In 2019, Salama announced his collaboration with Netflix for a series called “Paranormal,” which was released in 2020. He is also a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
There you have it—the African filmmakers who are redefining the art of storytelling, one frame at a time. These filmmakers are not just creating movies; they’re creating movements, challenging norms, and giving voice to stories that need to be heard. Whether it’s Kunle Afolayan’s box office hits or Akosua Adoma Owusu’s experimental narratives, each filmmaker on this list brings a unique perspective that enriches the global cinematic landscape. So the next time you’re looking for a film that offers more than just entertainment, you know where to look. Happy watching!
Source: African Filmmakers